Under the new policy, which took effect March 1, people caught with a small amount marijuana would not be appointed a lawyer if they have no criminal record and it’s their first pot possession offense.
According to a memo that court officials sent to the Arlington County Bar Association last month, some people caught with pot for the first time can enter a guilty plea and have the charge dismissed as long as they agree to meet “certain conditions” set by the court.
Offenders who qualify would have two weeks from arraignment to consult with an attorney if they choose, but wouldn’t be appointed one.
Though the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says “in all criminal prosecutions the accused… shall have assistance of counsel for his defense,” the Supreme Court ruled in a 1979 decision that the right to counsel only applies when a defendant faces imprisonment.
In this case, because the court is waiving jail time for those offenders, it does not legally need to appoint them counsel. Many other courts throughout the U.S. have also similarly waived imprisonment for first-time marijuana offenders.
Arlington’s Office of the Public Defender is protesting the policy on the grounds that it could unfairly affect people who can’t afford lawyers if they want them.
The office made its case in a rebuttal letter shared with ARLnow.com.
“While no doubt unintended, Arlington’s new policy will send us down a slippery slope towards the same scenario for poor people: no lawyers for indigent persons charged with personal-use marijuana possession cases where the court or prosecutor exclude jail time as a sentencing option,” the letter reads.
Matthew Foley, the office’s chief public defender, added that the new policy would “disproportionately affect minorities and immigrants” and possibly deprive them of their due process.
Foley argued that the policy could mislead people into thinking the charges would be expunged from their record, which they may not be. For citizens, he said, the consequences of a criminal record might include loss of educational opportunities, jobs, public benefits, student loans, and the ability to legally drive a car. For non-citizens, the consequences of such a record could mean deportation, the inability to become a citizen or re-enter the country.
“Liberty is not just about jail time,” he told ARLnow.com. “It’s about permanent criminal records, which affect you your entire life.”
Foley continued in the letter:
Assuming a typical indigent defendant can even get a free consultation with a private lawyer, how does that person parlay the attorney’s advice into getting due process? If the consulted lawyer advises that the police stop or search were unlawful, what will the indigent defendant without an appointed attorney be able to do with this advice? What if the person charged is innocent? How does the mere advice of the attorney lead to a just result? If the attorney tells the accused person that the case is weak, but he may be deported if he is found guilty, how does that help? The answer is clear: it will help no more than a doctor advising an uninsured, cash-strapped patient how to remove his tonsils, set a broken leg or cure his cancer.
But Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos disputed Foley’s argument and called his rhetoric “overheated.”
Hunt Loses Mansion Legal Battle — Rodney P. Hunt, once one of the D.C. area’s wealthiest businessmen, has lost a legal battle to keep his $24 million Chain Bridge Road mansion. Hunt, who represented himself in court, asserted that the entity that bought the mansion at a foreclosure auction this summer was not its real owner. While Hunt was living there, the 20,000 square foot property hosted large “#RHPMansion” parties, one of which led to a drive-by shooting in McLean. [Washington Post]
‘Loss of Historic Architecture’ — The historic George Washington Carver Cooperative Apartments in the Arlington View neighborhood were torn down in February. The apartments’ 70-year history as a centerpiece of the working-class African American community there was, however, preserved via oral histories and historic markets. The property is now the Carver Place townhomes, which start at $689,000. So far, 38 of 73 have sold. [Falls Church News-Press]
Road Closure in Lyon Park — Washington Gas pipeline work is prompting a road closure in Lyon Park today and tomorrow. Cyclists who use the Arlington Blvd trail may also be affected. [BikeArlington Forum]
First Day of Winter — Today is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also known as the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight. [Capital Weather Gang]
Vornado Reveals Big Plans for Crystal City — Vornado, the preeminent property owner in Crystal City, has filed preliminary plans to overhaul a number of its properties in the community. The plans include big changes to the Shops at 1750 retail space, near the entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, and a new multiplex cinema. [Washington Business Journal]
Lyft to Open Regional HQ in Crystal City — Ride hailing app company Lyft is planning to invest $350,000 to open a new regional headquarters in Crystal City, creating 32 jobs locally. “Lyft is thrilled to open our new office in the emerging innovation center of Crystal City,” said Steve Taylor, the company’s general manager for the D.C. area. “We’re extremely pleased by the warm welcome we have received from Governor McAuliffe, and state and county officials.” [Washington Post]
Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Attack on Law Firm Partner — Alecia Schmuhl has pleaded guilty in the vicious 2014 attack on Leo Fisher and his wife Susan Duncan. Prosecutors say Schmuhl and her husband took the couple hostage, slit Fisher’s throat and stabbed Duncan as part of a revenge plot after she was fired by Fisher from the Arlington-based firm of Bean Kinney & Korman. Fisher and Duncan survived the attack. [Washington Post]
Nominations Open for James B. Hunter Award — Arlington County is accepting nominees for the 2016 James B. Hunter Award. The award, named after a former Arlington County Board member, “goes to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and business establishments that promote cultural diversity and equal rights for all residents.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Billy Buck
Rainy Weekend, Maybe — Hurricane Hermine, which is now a tropical storm after making landfall in Florida, is expected to make its way up the coast and bring rain to the Mid-Atlantic region Saturday and Sunday. The exact track of the storm is still in question, thus it’s unclear just how much rain the D.C. area will get. [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
Arlington Native Serving on USS Arlington — Wakefield High School grad Joseph Reed is serving as a fire controlman aboard the USS Arlington, the U.S. Navy ship named after his hometown. [Navy Office of Community Outreach]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Two men arrested for a shooting outside the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall have been sentenced after entering plea agreements.
Reginald Dana is slated to serve three years in prison after entering an Alford plea for attempted malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Calvin Pelzer will serve a year in jail after pleading guilty to felony eluding and accessory after the fact, according to prosecutors.
The December 2015 shooting was described as a road rage incident at the exit of the mall’s parking garage. Police say Dana fired a gunshot in the air out of frustration with a driver who was having problems using a credit card at one of the gates. Pelzer, the driver, then sped away and tried to elude police who gave chase on I-395. The chase ended near 3rd and F Street NW in D.C., after the two suspects bailed out and started running.
Both men were both 21 years old and D.C. residents at the time of their arrest.
The man who held a local attorney and his wife captive in their McLean home for hours, torturing them and slashing their throats, has been found guilty on all charges.
Springfield resident Andrew Schmuhl, 33, now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The sentencing will begin Thursday.
Schmuhl’s wife, Alecia, will face trial in September for her role in the attack, which allegedly stemmed from her firing from the Courthouse-based law firm Bean, Kinney & Korman. Victim Leo Fisher was the partner in the firm who fired Schmuhl.
The firm released the following press release about the verdict Tuesday evening.
We are grateful that the jury’s guilty verdicts in the prosecution of Andrew Schmuhl for his brutal assault of our friend and colleague, Leo Fisher, and his wife Sue Duncan, mark the beginning of closure for them. This was a horrific ordeal no one can fully grasp. We appreciate the enormous effort made by the Commonwealth’s Attorney and his office to present a compelling case that has produced a just result, and the hard work of the law enforcement professionals who brought the facts to light. We trust that the jury will now recommend a sentence commensurate with the defendant’s atrocities.
The firm remains deeply indebted to its friends, clients, colleagues and fellow professionals for their constant well-wishes and support throughout this process.
With the conclusion of the sentencing proceedings, Leo may add his comments to those of the firm, but we ask that his and Sue’s continued privacy be respected. Otherwise, as the prosecution of Alecia Schmuhl is continuing, no further comment will be provided from anyone with the firm, apart from our desire that an appropriate outcome in her case will also be achieved.
About Bean, Kinney & Korman, P.C.
For more than 50 years, Bean, Kinney & Korman has been a leading Northern Virginia law firm that has continuously grown and diversified to meet the increasingly complex legal needs of its expanding community of clients. Bean, Kinney & Korman provides business/corporate and individual services among a wide range of practice areas. For more information, visit http://www.beankinney.com.
Prosecutors say all 12 were members of the notorious MS-13 street gang, which has a presence in Northern Virginia.
The U.S. Attorney’s office issued the following press release Monday afternoon.
Six members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted today by a federal jury for their roles in three murders and one attempted murder in Northern Virginia, among other charges.
“These violent gang members brutally murdered three men and attempted to murder a fourth,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Extreme violence is the hallmark of MS-13, and these horrific crimes represent exactly what the gang stands for. This was a highly complicated, death penalty eligible case with 13 defendants and more than two dozen defense attorneys. To say I am proud of our trial team and investigative partners is an understatement. I want to thank them for their terrific work on this case and for bringing these criminals to justice.”
“The defendants terrorized our local communities with senseless, depraved acts of threats, intimidation and violence,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “They murdered in the name of MS-13, but as this jury’s verdict makes clear, no gang can protect them from facing justice for their crimes. This verdict sends a clear message that the FBI will hold violent gangs and murderers fully accountable for their actions. I would like to thank the agents, analysts and prosecutors for their tireless efforts to eradicate gang violence in our communities.”
A total of 13 defendants were charged in this case. Of those, six defendants went to trial and were convicted of all charges. Six defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial, and one defendant was severed from the case and will have a separate trial at a later date. Please see the table at the end of this press release for additional information on each defendant.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 1, 2013, Jose Lopez Torres, Jaime Rosales Villegas and others drove to Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge to murder a fellow gang member. However, one of the gang members in the car had not only alerted police to the murder plot, he also made recorded phone calls and wore a body wire to a meeting where the gang members, including Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz, who participated from prison on a contraband cell phone, planned the murder. The gang members’ vehicle was under surveillance that night, the victim had been warned to not be at school, and the informant was wearing a body wire.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 7, 2013, Torres, Omar DeJesus Castillo, Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala, Araely Santiago Villanueva, Jose Del Cid, and three others murdered fellow gang member Nelson Omar Quintanilla Trujillo. The gang believed Trujillo was a snitch, and so the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park in Falls Church, and brutally killed him by stabbing him with knives and slashing him with a machete. When they were done they buried Trujillo in a shallow grave. Several gang members returned a short time later and, with the assistance of Alvin Gaitan Benitez, reburied the body of Trujillo.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on March 29, 2014, Castillo, Benitez, Christian Lemus Cerna, Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara, Villanueva, Del Cid, and one other murdered Gerson Adoni Martinez Aguilar, a gang recruit, for breaking gang rules. Like Trujillo, the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park and killed him. They stabbed him repeatedly, cut off his head, and then buried him in a shallow grave.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on June 19, 2014, Jesus Alejandro Chavez, Del Cid, and Genaro Sen Garcia murdered Julio Urrutia. Several gang members including Chavez, who had been released from prison eight days earlier, were out looking for rival gang members when they approached a group of young men, flashed their gang signs, and challenged them about their gang affiliation. During the exchange Chavez pulled out a gun and shot Urrutia in the neck at point blank range.
Each defendant convicted at trial faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison when sentenced. Villegas and Cruz face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit murder charge, in addition to a consecutive minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Villegas also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the attempted murder charge. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The 22-year-old suspect, whose first name is Samantha, was arrested on Valentine’s Day morning after calling police to report that she was “in possession of a vehicle that was not hers.”
From our previous article on the alleged crime:
Samantha, 22, told police she was intoxicated when she took an Uber to District Taco in Rosslyn Saturday night, intent on grabbing some food. Afterward, she walked down to the Hyatt hotel, on the 1300 block of Wilson Blvd, milled about a bit and then allegedly stole a car from the valet.
Samantha’s next recollection, according to police, is waking up in the back seat of the car around 1 a.m., in an unknown location in Arlington. She then drove home, went to sleep, and called police around 9 a.m. to come clean about what happened, said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
After Samantha’s arrest was included in a crime report and in the ARLnow article, her attorney contacted us to say that she was “involuntarily intoxicated and had been the victim of a sexual assault.”
Police were called to a local hospital and took a report of a sexual assault Sunday evening, after the suspect was released from jail, ACPD confirmed after an inquiry from ARLnow.com. “That case is ongoing,” said Savage, the police spokeswoman.
Court records show that Samantha had a preliminary hearing in April and that the charges had been dropped “nolle prosequi.”
Savage said that no arrests have been made in the alleged sexual assault and that police do not have a description of the suspect. Jeff Overand, Samantha’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.
Water Main Repairs to Close Road — Arlington Ridge Road is scheduled be closed in both directions at 23rd Street S. from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. today for water main repairs. Detours will be in place, but drivers should consider alternate routes, Arlington County says.
Airport Strike is Back on Starting Tonight — A strike by contract service workers at Reagan National and other major U.S. airports is back on, starting tonight. The strike was initially planned for last week but was postponed due to the Brussels terror attacks. [Washington Post]
Arson Suspect Due in Arlington Court — A Reston man suspected of a home invasion and arson in Fairfax County is scheduled to be in an Arlington courtroom tomorrow. Antwan Green is also facing multiple charges stemming from crashing a stolen vehicle in Arlington on Dec. 10 and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. [Reston Now]
Fundraiser for Accessible Community Garden — Arlington County is trying to raise $10,000 from donors in order to build four “vertical gardens” that are accessible to those with disabilities or mobility issues. Currently, none of the county’s community gardens are accessible. The vertical gardens would be built at the Glebe & Lang Street Community Garden, along S. Glebe Road. The county is hoping to complete fundraising and construction by the end of June. [Fund Your Park]
Arlington Startup Acquired — Arlington-based startup Encore Alert has been acquired by Meltwater, a San Francisco-based brand analytics and consulting firm. As a result of the acquisition, the Encore Alert team has moved to the Bay Area. [DC Inno]
Co-Working Growing Quickly — Co-working providers are growing quickly and are expected by some analysts “to absolutely explode over the next five years.” Two of the top players are WeWork, which just opened a new office in Crystal City, and MakeOffices, which is opening a new flagship co-working space in Clarendon within the next few months. MakeOffices is based in Rosslyn, after being founded as UberOffices in 2012. [Bisnow]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Alexandria resident Obayedul Hoque conspired with managers at a number of Subway stores and a gas station he owned to keep some $6.5 million in sales off the books between 2008 and 2013. Hoque’s company dodged between $1.5 and $3.5 million in federal taxes as a result of the conspiracy, prosecutors said.
Among the seven Subway locations Hoque owned in Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. is the shop at 3000 10th Street N. in Clarendon. That store has remained open. Hoque also owned a Shell station on Duke Street in Alexandria.
Hoque pleaded guilty today and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 13. The full press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after the jump.
Photo via Google Maps
Taxi Driver Fights Arlington Cemetery Tickets — A taxi driver is scheduled to appear in federal court later this month to appeal three misdemeanor traffic convictions. U.S. Park Police have been repeatedly ticketing Yahia Fayed for idling outside of Arlington National Cemetery, where he says there’s a steady stream of people looking for a cab. Federal officials say that’s not allowed. So far, no militiamen have threatened to protest federal government tyranny on Fayed’s behalf. [Washington Post]
Scary CO Incident at Gym Near Fairlington — Arlington County firefighters and medics were among those who responded to the XSport Fitness gym on King Street, across from Fairlington, on Saturday for a carbon monoxide incident. Witnesses said people all of a sudden started collapsing on their treadmills. Seven were hospitalized. A malfunctioning pool heater was found to be the cause. [Fox 5 DC]
Arlington Ready to Enforce Snow Removal Ordinance — Should snow ever fall this winter, Arlington County is ready to enforce its five-year-old snow removal ordinance. Last season, 25 citations were issued for snow removal violations. [InsideNova]
Lidl HQ Close to Opening — The new U.S. headquarters for German grocery giant Lidl is getting ready to open near Potomac Yard. The company also just purchased land near Richmond for one of its first stores in Virginia. [Virginia Business]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Prosecutor: Black Asked for Help Killing Wife — At a bond hearing Monday, prosecutors said that David Black asked a friend to help kill his wife in a classic case of domestic violence. Black was denied bond and will remain in jail, charged with killing his estranged wife Bonnie Black in their home near Pentagon City. The trial is set for Feb. 29. [WUSA 9]
One of the Worst Traffic Bottlenecks — Arlington has one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country, according to the American Highway Users Alliance. I-395 between Washington Blvd and the GW Parkway ranked No. 26 on the list, wasting 1.1 million hours and 322,600 gallons of fuel annually. [WTOP]
TSA HQ Move May Be Delayed — The Transportation Security Administration’s headquarters may be staying in Pentagon City past 2017 after all. A judge has halted the TSA’s move to Alexandria in response to a protest of the lease bidding process by a losing bidder. [Government Executive]
Arlington GOP May Ditch Office — In order to save money, the Arlington County Republican Committee is considering giving up the $1,100 per month office it rents in the Dominion Arms apartment building. [InsideNova]
See Something, Type Something — Arlington County’s website has a “Homeland Security Tip Form,” for reporting “suspicious activity that may be related to terrorism” in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The funding for the half-finished renovations to the Lyon Park Community Center may be in jeopardy.
In November of 2014, the Lyon Park Citizens Association voted to take out a $600,000 line of credit from Cardinal Bank to help fund the $1.2 million renovations. The vote was almost evenly split, with those who opposed the motion saying they were concerned about the park and community center being used as collateral to obtain the loan.
Now, the resulting legal wrangling over the loan has resulted in a ruling that will prevent it from being issued, at least as originally planned.
When the LPCA approved the motion to take out a line of credit, a group of seven residents referred to in court documents as the “Concerned Lyon Park Beneficiaries” opposed the petition in court. Their concerns were outlined in a flyer circulated to the community.
The opposition, filed Nov. 7 2014, states that the residents in question feel the Board encumbered the park “under imprudent conditions,” and that the residents “have reasonable and legal concerns regarding the ability of the community to re-pay this sizeable loan, and the resulting ramifications of a loan default.”
(Encumber is a legal term meaning that the property was placed in position where more than one party had a valid legal claim on it; if the park were used as collateral for a loan, both Cardinal Bank and the Lyon Park community would have valid claims.)
Another court document pertaining to the case dated July 30, 2014, states that “recently two trustees [of Lyon Park] resigned because each refused to sign documents pertaining to a $600,000 bank loan for a planned renovation of the community house. The appointment of successor trustees is far from a routine appointment.”
Since its inception in 1925, Lyon Park has had trustees appointed by the community to hold the deed to the park on behalf of all residents. When a loan is taken out for the park, the trustees have been the ones to sign the documents. Court documents also state that the park has been put up as collateral for a loan at least twice before, in 1925 for $2,500 and 1927 for $3,000.
Circuit Court judge Jonathan Thacher ruled last month that the latest loan was improperly filed. While the decision doesn’t prohibit the Board of Governors from using the park as collateral for a loan, that option is effectively closed to the community because at least one of the seven residents who challenged the Board’s decision in court indicated that he or she would also oppose any future filings, thus imposing burdensome legal costs, according to Lyon Park Community Center Chair Jeannette Wick.
“We are going to exclusively pursue options that don’t involve encumbering the park,” said Wick. “We’d like to go forward without further litigation — we could end up tied up in court forever.”
After the judge ruled, Wick said the Board came up with a table of options which included:
- Raising enough money that a loan would not be required.
- Working with Cardinal Bank to find a way to borrow without encumbering the park.
- Stopping construction completely.
According to Wick, with more than half a million dollars still required for renovations, the first option is unrealistic even with neighbors’ “incredible generosity.” The second option is still being explored, but is proving difficult because thus far Cardinal Bank has insisted on collateral. Wick described the third option as undesirable for several reasons.
“It would be bad for the neighborhood, it’s costly to stop construction and having an unfinished building on our property creates an attractive nuisance for thefts and squatters,” said Wick. “Right now, we’re searching for some sort of happy medium between option one and option three.”
Wick estimates residents have donated about $500,000 towards the project thus far, including roughly $85,000 since June 1.
“Everyone that I have talked to has been united in the view that ‘It’s halfway done, we need to move forward,'” said Wick. “If you look at the donation map, giving has been robust throughout the community — this isn’t a project where it’s a one-man show or only a few people want it.”
Kevin Baer, a resident who opposed putting the park up as collateral, said that he and other concerned residents “look forward to continuing to work together in the neighborhood to find a prudent way forward.”
The renovations to the center, currently in progress, include making the building ADA compliant, adding a sun room, and improving the kitchen and bathrooms.
The ART bus driver who was involved in a seven-vehicle wreck along Columbia Pike in December has been found not guilty of reckless driving.
The verdict was reached today after a trial held before Arlington County General District Court Judge Richard McCue. Agere Sileshi, 27, was found not guilty of the original charge of reckless driving, but was found guilty of “improper driving.”
Sileshi faces a $250 fine but no jail time on the charge, which “embodies a finding by the Court that the ‘degree of culpability is slight,'” according her attorney, Alexandria attorney Joseph Blaszkow. Sileshi has been on medical leave since the incident, Blaszkow said.
According to court testimony, Sileshi was driving her bus through the parking lot of the Columbia Pike Plaza shopping center when a car suddenly turned in front of her. Sileshi struck the car and then drove her bus through a retaining wall and onto S. Dinwiddie Street, striking several additional vehicles.
Altogether, five passenger vehicle, a mixing truck and several bicycles were damaged in the crash. Three vehicle occupants and a pedestrian were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
NORAD Flyover Exercise Tonight — NORAD will conduct a flyover exercise tonight that may be noticed by Arlington residents. The exercise will take place between midnight and 2:00 a.m. [Twitter]
Bean Kinney Attorney’s Attack Detailed in Court — In court testimony in Fairfax County, attorney Leo Fisher and his wife, Susan Duncan, described the vicious home invasion attack allegedly carried out by the husband of an attorney Fisher fired at the Arlington law firm of Bean, Kinney & Korman. Fisher said the man “slit my throat” and Duncan described being stabbed repeatedly in the upper body and being nearly shot in the head. [Washington Post]
No ‘Real Solution’ Yet for Pike Transit — An urban design and transportation writer is alleging that Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt has yet to propose an effective alternative to the planned Columbia Pike streetcar system he helped to scuttle. [Greater Greater Washington]
More School Board Endorsements — In the race for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board, candidates have picked up some key endorsements in the past week. Former School Board member and current County Board member Libby Garvey says she’s endorsing Sharon Dorsey, as is former School Board member Frank Wilson. Reid Goldstein, meanwhile, has picked up the endorsements of County Board Chair Mary Hynes and former School Board member Ed Fendley.
Flickr pool photo by Alves Family